Ernie and Valerie’s drive back to Spain in their new Figaro
On 27th September we set out for Spain and enjoyed a lovely drive through Ireland and France. Ernie did most of the driving and I navigated (did my best!). Driving through beautiful countryside we avoided the motorways and stopped off at some interesting places, such as Le Mont-Saint-Michel, an old town with narrow cobbled streets and an abbey, not too far from Cherbourg. It’s well worth a visit but be prepared for a steep climb to the top. Make sure you don’t park too near the entrance (as we did) unless you can run quickly. There was a warning announcing for people to return to their cars before the tide came in!
After making our get-away we travelled to Le Mans, where we stayed overnight. The next day we visited the Le Mans Vintage Car Museum and then went to the Le Mans Racetrack taking the Mulsanne Kink flat out (the race cars can take this at 200mph). This was a special treat for Ernie after all it was his birthday! Cognac was our next stop and then onto Biarritz and St Jean de Luz where we sat and drank coffee in the old port area whilst watching folk photograph our new Figaro.
A nail-biting battle for road space around some new motorways in the north of Spain followed. Some maniac drivers, intent on killing us, caused me to lose my place on the map, resulting in a long, unplanned trip through the mountains to Burgos. Thanking God for deliverance from Northern Spain drivers (TIP: avoid the B1627 at all costs) we were glad to arrive in Burgos at 10pm and booked into a hotel for the night.
Next day we moved onto Chinchon, south-east of Madrid, where we spent a few lovely days touring around the area with the Marina Alta Car Club (who?). We visited Aranjuez Palace, the lakes around Sacedon and the Real Bodega Carlos 111. Chinchon is a unique place with a bullring (temporary) in the main plaza, surrounded by quaint cafes and restaurants. It should come with a relationship warning! I’m sure many divorce cases start here! The numerous one-way streets are an anathema. Similar to near-by towns, the main streets often turn into narrow lanes whilst remaining main on the map. Many people (us included) were lucky to eat at all as we were often lost and late for set meal times! Nothing new for us!
After this eventful week-end we drove to Zaragosa, a city that hosted the Expo 2008 from June to September. It’s had a massive building programme in the last year with the construction of many modern buildings and bridges. The old town is beautiful with cathedrals in the square from which narrow streets run in all directions. For those interested in history and cars/bikes the El Fuelle restaurant on Calle Major is worth a visit. There are many old household and manufacturing items hanging on the walls of the restaurant, including a few racks used during the Inquisition, which started here. Further down the street is a Tapas Bar called Le Sidecar which has lots of motorbike photographs on the walls and a collection of small model motorbikes. Finally we drove to Torrevieja on 6th October.
This grand little car was built in 1991 in Japan for the Japanese market. There were only 20,000 built but so many people wanted one that a lottery system was used to decide who could buy. They cost 12,000 and came in four colours of the seasons Emerald Green (spring), Pale Aqua (summer), Topaz (autumn) and Lapis Grey (winter). Built with retro-50’s convertible style in mind, they were made with electric windows, ABS, automatic gearbox and power steering an old look for a modern car. Four seats give extra flexibility (especially for the short-legged) and the protective panel around the cab means it is cosy and fairly rainproof when the hood is down. A 987 cc Turbo charged engine ensures one can pass inquisitive drivers at a respectable speed. The polo mint wheels, fleur de lit switches, round retro dials and white leather upholstery highlight the attention to detail in the production of this quirky, practical and reliable car. Nissan Micra mechanical parts are used which removes the angst of trying to find non-standard parts. Another bonus is that is brings out the good in people – no-one gave us anything but positive responses and allowed us right-of-road with a smile (except in the north of Spain!).
In the UK the Figaro is now a cult car and much desired. The price is increasing and a good one can cost as much as 15,000.Celebrities, such as Vanessa Feltz and Andrew Marr own one and Eric Clapton had one in the past.
Ernie bought a Figaro car for me after our marriage over one year ago and designed a special number plate FIG4620, which when adjusted looks like FIGARO. (FIG is the new regional pre-fix in County Fermanagh). He looked for FIG4120 which would have been easier but some old farmer boy is probably driving around Fermanagh with this number plate on his tractor! To keep on the right side of the law the adjusted number plate has only been used on car events. Ernie liked the car so much he got himself one, thinking it would be nice for Spain. He spent hours cleaning the nicotine-stained upholstery even the air-con unit was surrounded by staining the previous owner must have been receiving a double nicotine-fix as he drove along! Ernie’s fingers suffered with the scrubbing and the chemicals, not to mention the bath at home!
In France and Spain the car drove very well and there were no problems except for a small glitch in Chinchon when 2 plugs were needed and a puncture repaired. The garage mechanics had never seen a Figaro before but were very helpful and able to sort things out quickly.
We look forward to many hours of motoring in our new little car. If you see us honk your horn!
Ernie and Valerie